of Cooking with
"Family Cooking" requires basic utensils and cooking equipment that are
safe and easy to use by family members of all ages. I'm not talking about
fancy items like appliances with sausage-maker attachments or phenomenal
mandolins (though these devices certainly have their place in the cook's
kitchen)! Rather, it's the basic tools:
Note: Any brand names I may indicate are ones I have tested with children. I am not endorsing one brand over another; rather I am giving my opinion based on the equipment I have tried to date.
Look for long-handled utensils, preferably wooden or plastic, that do not conduct heat. In terms of measuring cups and spoons, I find plastic is easier for kids to handle. We've been getting great results (fewer spills, more exact measuring) with nesting-types, such as Tupperware's, which double as a liquid and dry ingredient measurer.
It is interesting to note that many of the more routine and monotonous culinary tasks like peeling, chopping, and grating have been taken over by machines (where possible) because adult cooks find them tedious and 'don't have the time.' But when children enter the picture, even toddlers, they adore these jobs because kids enjoy and learn from repetition. So while parents may avoid recipes that require these steps or even dislike making salad because of all the chopping -- your own kids can be your ideal collaborators on such dishes. In fact, like most parents, you may be very surprised at just how willing and capable they are!
When working with my own children and with families in class settings, I've dispensed with the food processor for common chopping and grating tasks, because I've found kids really enjoy doing it by hand. Thanks to companies like Tupperware and OXO 'Good Grips,' there are fabulously ergonomically designed tools perfect for little ones and their parents alike.
Below are some family activities introducing some more unusual kitchen tools, along with some proven family-friendly recipes from my book, Cooking Time Is Family Time.
1. Grating - Potato pancakes or carrot cakes are most delicious when grating these vegetables with one's very own hands! The Tupperware "Grate 'n Measure' is the safest, easiest and most mess-saving design I've found. It has two pieces, a metal grater that locks into a stand that is angled for easy use and is attached to a cup that catches and measures what you are grating. Ask kids grate their own cheese for pizza or grilled cheese sandwiches and enjoy the pride on their faces at a job well done!
Mills/Ricers - Make pureed vegetable soup with a ricer rather than a blender.
It's fun for them, but little ones usually need help as it takes some
muscle power! Seeing the results streams of thin, noodle-like vegetables
pour out of the device is really fun for kids. "I did that!" they
gleefully exclaim, taking great pride in the manual effort that turns
squash or potatoes or beans into soup!
4. Blending Nutritious Concoctions - For some jobs, nothing other than a blender will do! Fruit smoothies are one of these. Whether made with juice, yogurt, soy milk or regular milk as the base, adding fresh fruit makes a delectable concoction. For family use, KitchenAid blenders are extremely durable, and contain kid-friendly features such as smooth-touch control panels, warning lights that the blender is left on and a pouring spout as well as a large middle spout for adding ingredients while you blend.